The Santacruzan as a vehicle of protest

Published May 31, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


Today is the last day of May and in many towns all over the country,  the final Santacruzans  and Flores de Mayo  celebrations  are held.  The  Santacruzan,  brought here by the Spaniards, has been called  the queen of Filipino festivities.

Religious in origin – portraying  the legend of Queen Helena, searching for  the True Cross  at the site of the Crucifixion in Jerusalem – the Santacruzan  evolved into a community  festival over the years , featuring  the community’s  prettiest girls  walking  in  evening processions as the people  of the community followed with lighted candles, singing “Dios te salve, Maria.”

The Reyna Elena – Queen Helena – and her son Constantino, later to become  the Emperor  Constantine the Great, during  whose reign Christianity became  the dominant  religion of Rome, were always the last  characters in the procession.  They were preceded by various figures, among  them the  Reyna Esperanza, Reyna Caridad, Reyna Sentenciada, Reyna Abogada, Reyna  Justicia, Divina Pastora, Reyna de los Angeles, etc. In Metro Manila, beauty  queens  and movie stars have joined the Santacruzan in big social affairs that served  to climax the month of May as the Month of Flowers.

Last  Saturday,  however,  a different sort of Santacruzan was held at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman. It was basically a protest demonstration  against  what the student organizers  perceive to be signs of  injustice, oppression, and violations of human  rights in the country today.

Instead of the usual Reynas of the traditional Santacruzan, there were a  Reyna Justicia, calling for the release of political prisoners; a Reyna de los  Martires,  speaking  up  for victims of extrajudicial killings;  a Reyna  dela Verdad,  calling attention to  journalists and other peace advocates killed for speaking up for the truth; a Reyna Esperanza, embodying  the hopes of  development workers and activists; and a Reyna dela Paz,  representing the cause of  indigenous people defending  their  ancestral  lands and Mindanao folk calling for an end to martial law.

So much is happening in our country today,  so many programs and projects  that are  causing so many changes  in our  traditional way of doing things. There have been some protests such as  in the  early days of the anti-drugs  campaign of the Philippine National Police (PNP) which caused the President  to assign the  Philippine Drug Enforcement  Agency (PDEA) to take  over the lead in the drive. There are still some sectors who see the need for  changes  in some of the  government’s various operations,  such as those behind  the UP protest  Santacruzan.

The causes it advocated may not be shared by most Filipinos but they should be listened to. There may be something  to them or to some of them, something  on which government action is needed.